The history listed below comes from the program that Brother Scotty Ogden put together for our centennial celebration.
SALEM LODGE No. 330
As we look back over the record of mankind from the time that he scratched images of bison and reindeer in the caves he inhabited, to the great works of the Pharaohs and the grandeur of the Roman Empire, one hundred years seems a modest span. And yet, a perusal of the minute books of Salem Lodge gives one a glimpse of times so different from our own as to seem wonderfully quaint and archaic; like many lodges of the time, its meetings were scheduled to coincide with the full moon so that the brethren could have light to find their way home. As we think of the sleighs or buggies making their way through snow or mud or the rough and dusty roads of Wayne County, we are impressed by how much this Masonic association meant to our forbears. In spite of the distances in that age of horses, there were frequently considerable delegations of visitors from lodges in Moscow and Hawley, Waymart, Scranton, and Honesdale.
The warrant for the charter of Salem Lodge No. 330 was issued by the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania on March 7, 1859. The charter members, Thomas Nichols, J.N. Wilson, A.B. Walker, E.B. Hollister, William D. Curtis, Stanley Day, Marcus Day, and James Scarle met on May 23, 1859 at 2:30 in the afternoon in the Odd Fellows Hall over A.B. Walkers store. (This building, used by A.B. Walker as a store since 1851, is the one at the corner of routes 90 and 590, now Fullwoods store; the hall was first used as a lodge hall by the Sons of Temperance.) There were present forty-five visitors from lodges in Wilkes-Barre, Hawley, Carbondale, Honesdale, and Scranton. Sharpe D. Lewis, Right Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master of Luzerne County was formally introduced, took the chair, and opened the Grand Lodge. The charter was read, and the lodge was constituted in due form. Thomas Nichols was installed as Worshipful Master; W.D. Curtis as Senior Warden; J.N. Wilson as Junior Warden; A.B. Walker as Secretary; and E.B. Hollister as Treasurer. After closing of the Grand Lodge, they all marched over to A.B. Walkers hotel (now the Hamlin Hotel) where they enjoyed an all-around good time.
At seven in the evening, they reconvened for the most spartan and gruelling session of the lodge ever entered upon the minutes. Petitions were read from L.A. Robinson, Seth G. Nicholson, and Dwight Reed for initiation and membership, the petitions referred to a committee which reported favorably, and the three candidates were separately balloted for, and declared elected. The Right Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master then issued a dispensation to enter, pass, and raise the three candidates on that night, which was done; and the lodge closed very late. This strenuous application to business characterized the meetings of the first year, in which the meetings averaged well over six hours in length; and aside from the first glorious banquet, no mention was made of refreshment until a ten minute recess was called for that purpose in the following December. For a number of years it was the practice of the lodge to hold a banquet on Saint Johns Day to which the members brought their wives and sweethearts.
Several of the brethren marched off to take part of the Civil War, including one Past Master of the lodge, William D. Curtis.
At the end of ten years, the lodges membership had increased by more than ten times, to eighty-six. Membership was drawn from a very large area, especially considering the transportation difficulties of that era; but in 1872 the Moscow Lodge was constituted, and in 1876 the Waymart Lodge was established, resulting in many withdrawls from the Salem Lodge by brethren living in those areas, and in new prospects from those areas joining those lodges. Salem Lodge membership dropped to twenty, and there were no additions in 1879, 1886, 1893, nor 1898. Furthermore, attendance at meetings was scant. This situation was undoubtedly aggravated by the panics of 1873 and 1893. The initiation fee in the first days of the lodge was $20.00; this was a large sum. Even as late as 1895, $17.15 bought the following: 2 pr. butts, 3 doz. screws, 36 feet of lumber, 1 dust pan, 1 pitcher, 1 oil stove, 1 coffee pot, 2 doz. coffee cups, 2 sugar bowls, one-half doz. plates, 2 milk pitchers, 2 doz. spoons, 1 butter knife, 10 yds. carpet, 5 yds. oil cloth, and 5 lbs. sugar.
The notes of these early years are sometimes frustrating by reason of what they hint at, but leave unsaid; but it is interesting to see how the march of historical events in the world at large is reflected by lodge action. An appeal in 1886 from the Grand Lodge on behalf of the people of Charleston, S.C., was laid on the table. This, of course, was in connection with the great Charleston fire. Was it too soon after the Civil War to elicit a response from Yankees? The notes are inscrutable on this point. In 1889, $10.00 was sent to aid sufferers in Johnstown--the flood. of course--and in 1905, $5.00 was voted for the relief of California brethren--the San Francisco earthquake. The lodge showed caution in dealing with the financial appeals. From 1887 through 1903 all requests for the Masonic home were tabled; but in 1903 the lodge unanimously approved a proposal to establish a Masonic home in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania! However, in 1905 the lodge grandly voted the sum of $50.00 for the Philadelphia Masonic Home. During this period, however, the brethren showed a commendable concern for the aged and destitute of our own community, taking an active and personal part in provision of coal and food and medical attention. In rural America at that time poverty was very prevalent; but the spirit of the Christian responsibility for our neighbors was prevalent, too, in a measure seldom seen in the welfare state.
An inscrutable notation in April, 1888, observed that a committee was appointed to appraise damage on Lodge furniture, and a motion made to change the place of meeting. One would like to know the nature of the damage. Fire? Windstorm? Civil disturbance? The secretary kept his secret well. They were continually appointing committees in those days to see whether their deliberations could be heard outside the lodge room: the reports were continually deferred, and never entered in the minutes. There continued to be indications of dissatisfaction about the place of meeting for some time. A.B. Walker, one of the charter members of the lodge, had turned over his interest in the building to his brother, Sabinus in 1883. In 1882 the Odd Fellows built the hall which is now known by that name; and in May of 1888, Salem Lodge voted unanimously to change the place of meeting to the Odd Fellows Hall at a rent of $30.00 per year, and the bill of S. Walker for rent, fuel, etc. of $61.20 was laid on the table, under it, or some where else. They moved again in 1890 to the new hall of George W. Simons on the second floor of Simons store on the north side of the East & West Turnpike (the present location), and on motion duly made and seconded, Brother Charles Simons was appointed a committee to furnish the place with one dozen spittoons. Cigars in those days were always provided by the lodge.
One of the largest and most festive gatherings in the history of the lodge occurred on the occasion of the 50th anniversary celebration, attended by 129 Masons. At that time, Erastus B. Hollister, a charter member and one of the most colorful men at the time, presented a history of the first fifty years.
In 1918, after taking elaborate steps to ascertain that facts warranted such action, the Right Worshipful Grand Master granted Salem Lodge permission to accept and act on a fourth petition for membership. It was approved--the only such case in our records.
The great epidemic of Spanish Influenza in 1918 required the omission of the October meeting in that year.
Various members were called to fight in the first World War. The minutes show that contributions were solicited for a Masonic war relief effort.
From the beginning of the century until the First World War, membership continued to increase, reaching 142 members in 1918, despite an increase in initiation fees at the beginning of 1917. The meetings were well attended during this time, and the members shown as being present at the meetings constituted a roster of the foremost men of the community.
Nothing of the madness and folly of the roaring twenties finds its way into the sober secretarys notes of that era. We see a steady application to business; we find a membership peak of 162 in 1920, and a secondary peak of 156 in 1927, followed by a gradual decline in numbers to 133 in the black days of 1932-33. The depression is reflected more sharply in the decline of visitors from an average of 134 a year in 1927-29 to an average of 34 per year in 1930-32.
It was not until December of 1941 that the meeting time was amended to be held regularly on a Monday night. So, often do anachronisms continue to govern the affairs of men long after the original reason has been forgotten.
The memebership again showed gains (to 164 in 1935-37) again to decline during the second great war. At that time lodges were directed to close in the event of an air raid; were forbidden to act on petitions of alien citizens of nations with which we were at war; and the brethren were urged to attend church service.
The last decade of Salem Lodge has been marked by a steady gain in membership.
A communication from the Grand Master dated January 16, 1953 informed the lodge that Brother Robert H. Rayner, a Past Master and a member of Lodge No. 330, had been appointed District Deputy Grand Master for the 14th Masonic District. A special meeting of Grand Lodge officers was held on April 10, 1953 with Honesdale Lodge No. 218 for formally presenting Brother Rayner to the officers and members of the other lodges of the district.
The members of Salem Lodge can feel some satisfaction in considering how the lodge, begun in modest circumstances in a pioneering community, weathered the hard years of the late Victorian times, and finished its first century enjoying the largest membership in its history. A great milestone, the hundredth anniversary presents a fitting occasion to take the measure of our past, and to renew our dedication to the principles which make our association valuable.